George D. Watt

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George Darling Watt
George D. Watt.JPG
Born (1812-05-12)May 12, 1812
Manchester, England
Died October 24, 1881(1881-10-24) (aged 69)
Kaysville, Utah Territory
Resting place Kaysville City Cemetery
41°02′47″N 111°55′37″W / 41.046462°N 111.926819°W / 41.046462; -111.926819
Notable work Primary editor of the Journal of Discourses and the primary inventor of the Deseret Alphabet.
Religion Latter Day Saint
Denomination The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
and The Church of Zion
Spouse(s) Molly Gregson, Jane Brown,[1] Alice Whittaker,[1] Elizabeth Golightly,[1] Sarah Ann Harter,[1] and Martha Bench[1]
Children At least 11.[2]
Parent(s) James Watt and Ann Wood

George Darling Watt (12 May 1812 – 24 October 1881)[3] was the first convert to Mormonism baptized in the British Isles. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Watt was a secretary to Brigham Young, the primary editor of the Journal of Discourses and the primary inventor of the Deseret Alphabet.

Watt was born in Manchester, England. While living in Preston as a young man, Watt was a member of the Reverend James Fielding's congregation. Fielding's brother Joseph had joined the Latter Day Saint church in Upper Canada and had written to James about the new church. In 1837, Latter Day Saint missionaries Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, and Joseph Fielding traveled to Preston and were given permission by James Fielding to preach in his chapel.

Watt was baptized a Latter Day Saint on July 30, 1837 by Heber C. Kimball in the River Ribble. Watt won the right to be the first official British Latter Day Saint convert by winning a footrace against eight others from Fielding's congregation that desired to join the Mormons. In 1840 and 1841 Watt served as a Mormon missionary in Scotland. In 1842, Watt left England to join the gathering of the Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois.

In 1846, Brigham Young sent Watt and his wife back to England as church missionaries. Watt used his skill at Pitman shorthand in serving as a clerk to mission president George Q. Cannon. In late 1850, the Watts returned to America and joined the new gathering of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah Territory.

In Utah, Watt worked as a reporter for the Deseret News and as a private clerk for Brigham Young. Using his skill as a stenographer, Watt began recording the sermons given by Young and other LDS Church leaders. Beginning in 1853, Watt published these sermons in a periodical known as the Journal of Discourses. Watt remained the primary editor of the Journal until 1868.

In 1852, Watt was appointed by Young to a committee that was charged with creating a new phonetic alphabet that would assist non-English speaking Latter-day Saint immigrants learn English. The result was the Deseret Alphabet. Although the alphabet was largely a failure, Watt remained a strong promoter of the language system.

In 1869, Watt was disfellowshipped from the LDS Church for following the teachings of dissident William S. Godbe. Watt was identified as one of the leaders of the "Godbeites" and was disciplined by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Although Watt was initially repentant and desired to return to full fellowship in the LDS Church, by 1874 he was a devoted Godbeite and was excommunicated from the LDS Church on May 3, 1874.

Later, Watt tried to return to the LDS Church. Four times he attempted to rejoin the church but was denied because his beliefs differed from those of the LDS Church.[4]

Watt died in Kaysville, Utah Territory, at the age of 65, estranged from the LDS Church and its leaders. Watt's obituary describes him as "honest truthful and sincere although perhaps misguided being a self made man of strong character and exercising vast influence there is not a little in his career which is remarkable."[5]

Like many early Latter Day Saints, Watt practiced plural marriage; he had six wives. One of his wives, Jane Brown, was his half sister—they shared a mother, Mary Ann Wood.


  1. ^ a b c d e Watt, Ronald G. (Fall 1977), "Sailing 'The Old Ship Zion': The Life of George D. Watt", BYU Studies 18 (1): 56–57 
  2. ^ George Darling Watt Find a Grave
  3. ^ Ronald G. Watt wrote in 1977 that the birth was in December 1815 (Watt 1977, p. 49), though in a much later publication he claimed it was 12 May 1812 (Watt 2000). Additionally Watt's grave has two tombstones, which list both January 16 1815 and May 18, 1812 as birth dates.
  4. ^ Watt, Ronald G. (Fall 1977), "Sailing 'The Old Ship Zion': The Life of George D. Watt", BYU Studies 18 (1): 17 
  5. ^ Salt Lake Herald, 25 October 1881.